Discover more from Admired Leadership Field Notes
Listen Like You’re Wrong
Starting conversations with the premise that you are likely wrong in your thinking or understanding makes you a much different listener. Listening with the presumption that there is something you don’t know but need to is equally powerful. In both cases, you become less of an advocate for your opinions and more curious about what you can learn.
Listening to understand and fully grasp what others are saying is an acquired skill. For some seasoned leaders, it is an almost impossible skill to master because they are too wedded to their own views. They learn little from interacting with others, largely because that is not their goal. They remain committed advocates. They listen as a means to persuade. As a result, they fail to learn and understand the ideas and viewpoints others know and believe in.
Listening like you are wrong requires a shift in thinking from judging to engaging. You suspend the need to judge, at least temporarily, and engage others with the goal of understanding what premise or idea you have that might be faulty. Of course, this requires more questions than statements and more inquiry than advocacy.
Try this in an upcoming conversation. Clarify your views about the topic to be considered and identify the facts, premises, and biases you might have. Now presume one or more of them are dead wrong. Approach the conversation with that in mind.
Your goal now is to gain a deeper understanding of the other person’s perspective and to challenge your assumptions in the process. You will find this to be a very different conversation than you typically have with others, all because you are listening like you are wrong.
The intention to understand rather than reply is what constitutes true listening in the first place. In reality, leaders only hear what they understand. Listening like you’re wrong is a great step toward true understanding. Now see if you can do it. The more uncomfortable it makes you, the more critical it is for you to try.